three connection summerThere are three connections that I hope you cultivate in your life. Each of them clearly impacts your mental health, but you may be surprised to learn that they impact your physical health as well. 

Connecting with others, connecting with yourself, and connecting with nature will increase your enjoyment of life. Once you see how they make you feel, you may choose to commit to them throughout your life. 

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it will take some intention. Encouraging the people you love most to commit to making these connections will help all of you reap the benefits. 


Connecting with Others

There are many things people know they must do if they want to be healthy: eat well, get adequate movement, refrain from smoking, and limit alcohol. But now we can add “enjoying social connections” to our list of healthy habits!  

Author and researcher Brene Brown defines connection “as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”  

The American Association for the Advancement of Science published a study that found “a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure.” It is linked to obesity levels, inflammation, and hypertension. But positive connections improve your immune system and lead to a 50% increased chance of longevity. 

Ways to increase your chance for good connections...

  • Make time for important people in your life. 
  • Invite friends to hang out with you on your patio.
  • Go for a walk with a loved one.
  • Show your affection through physical touch.
  • Make room for laughter.
  • Call a family member.
  • Text an old friend.
  • Go to the pool with someone fun.
  • Do a favorite activity together (bowling, shopping, golfing, an escape room, etc.)
  • Join a book club or sports team (pickleball, softball, volleyball, etc.)
  • Be intentional about connecting around the dinner table a few times a week.
  • Hang out in the evening with those you live with.
  • Put your cell phone away when you are connecting with others in person. (Research has found that the presence of a cell phone interferes with connection.)


Connecting with Yourself 

It is extremely powerful to connect with yourself. Part of this is slowing down enough to notice what is going on internally.  

When you slow down, you may feel happiness, peace, excitement, or other more difficult emotions. It is important to accept these emotions without judgment or an attempt to change them.  


Emma Seppala, Ph.D., explains that “adults, in an attempt to bury and control their emotions often carry them with them for years. Allowing the emotion to arise and giving it our full attention may be a key to letting it go.” 

Everyone will do this a little differently, but the following are some ideas to try…

  • Go for a relaxing walk. 
  • Lay in a hammock.
  • Try meditation.
  • Read a book and contemplate your reaction.
  • Take some time to journal.
  • Do a guided self-compassion meditation (with Kristen Neff). 
  • Practice box breathing (also known as Four Square breathing).
  • Use art as a tool for self-connection. (You don’t have to be an artist, even an adult coloring book can help with reflection.)
  • Experiment with the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise.
  • Work with a therapist to get in touch with your internal world.


Connecting with Nature

According to Seppala, a recent study shows that “taking walks in nature can increase our well-being even in the case of depression, and another study showed that exposure to nature increases our value of connectedness and closeness.”  

Don’t skip this because you feel that you don’t have room in your schedule; even a short time in nature will be beneficial. 

You may enjoy…

  • going to the pool or splash pad.
  • walking at a forest preserve. (Herrick Lake, St. James Farm, Blackwell, etc.)
  • seeing the gardens at Cantigny.
  • going stargazing.
  • getting a hummingbird feeder to watch.
  • taking a bike ride.
  • sitting outside at a restaurant or coffee shop. (Kindred in West Chicago.)
  • watching or playing outdoor sports.
  • going to a concert that's outside.
  • acting like a kid. (climb a tree, skip stones at the lake, etc.)
  • planning a day fishing, kayaking, canoeing, etc.
  • going camping for the weekend. 


Connections to others, yourself, and nature can have a positive impact on your emotional and physical health! Let me know what you have done this week to encourage these connections. 

Dr. Jamie 

P.S. For more great ways to improve your social connections check out the National Institute of Health’s Social Wellness Toolkit